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8 arrested in attack on home of UC Berkeley chancellor

Protesters broke windows and threw torches at the home of Robert Birgeneau late Friday. No injuries were reported. Between 50 and 70 protesters fled. The rest are being held on $132,000 bail each.

December 13, 2009|By Mike Anton
  • A UC Berkeley spokesman outside the home of Chancellor Birgeneau, who called the attack "frightening."
A UC Berkeley spokesman outside the home of Chancellor Birgeneau, who called… (Noah Berger / Associated…)

Eight people were under arrest today after several dozen protesters shouting "no justice, no peace" attacked Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's home on the UC Berkeley campus, smashing windows, lights and planters as well as throwing torches at the home and police vehicles, authorities said.

The attack, shortly after 11 p.m. Friday, followed a four-day occupation of Wheeler Hall and the arrest of 66 people who were protesting state funding cutbacks and a steep increase in student fees throughout the University of California system. They were later released.

No injuries or fires were reported in the latest attack. Those arrested were booked on suspicion of rioting, threatening an education official, attempted burglary, attempted arson, felony vandalism and assault. They were being held Saturday in the Alameda County jail on $132,000 bail each.

"These are criminals, not activists," Birgeneau said in a statement released by the university. "The attack at our home was extraordinarily frightening and violent. My wife and I genuinely feared for our lives. . . . I urge the community and protesters to find more productive ways to express their points of view. To resort to life-endangering violence is never acceptable."

Birgeneau was home asleep at the time of the attack. His wife heard the commotion outside and called police, who responded within minutes, said university spokesman Dan Mogulof.

Between 50 and 70 protesters scattered, he said, and police were able to capture eight. Only two were UC Berkeley students, Mogulof said. Two others were UC Davis students. One person was among those arrested earlier in the Wheeler Hall occupation.

The escalation in violence, Mogulof said, shocked university officials. "This is a quantum leap beyond what had been happening here," he said. "They didn't just cross a red line, they leapt over it."

Because of the home's shatter-resistant windows and masonry construction, "it is really a matter of luck that the damage was moderate," Birgeneau said.

"The attack on Chancellor Birgeneau's residence late last night was appalling," UC President Mark G. Yudof said in a statement. "The behavior as described went far beyond the boundaries of public dissent, and such lawlessness cannot be tolerated."

There have been demonstrations by students and labor union activists at various UC campuses since regents last month voted to raise undergraduate student fees about $2,500, or 32%, by next fall.

At UCLA, authorities said they were investigating allegations that police overreacted during rallies last month outside a regents meeting in which about a dozen students and police officers reported minor injuries.

mike.anton@latimes.com

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